Hearty fare at North Bondi Italian

by Forager on March 21, 2009

We’ve been meaning to try North Bondi Italian for a while now, but for one reason or another haven’t found the time to make it there. A few weeks ago the perfect opportunity presented itself when the co-pilot had to choose a venue to celebrate his mum’s birthday. We went for a lovely late afternoon stroll along the beach before arriving at North Bondi Italian at sunset. The restaurant was already busy with diners when we arrived but we were content to soak up the surroundings and admire the restaurant’s sweeping views over Bondi whilst we waited for our table. The clientele here range from glamorous Eastern Sydney fashionistas (designer Marnie Skillings was leaving when we arrived) to trendy locals in grabbing a bite to eat in t-shirts and shorts. Save for the large papery lamp shades dangling overhead, the interior is simply furnished and comfortable, the atmosphere boisterous with chatting diners – a good sign that emphasis was as much on the location as it was on the food.

We all peruse the single page paper menus on the table doubling as placemats and after long moments of contemplation agree that it was difficult to narrow down the choices. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve looked at a menu and have found at least 10 things I want to eat and cannot narrow it down further. We end up choosing different meals so we can all taste a selection of dishes fr
om the menu.

To start we have the twice cooked chicken broth, chunky carrots, “polpette” chicken and parmesan dumplings. Although simple, it is just delicious. The chicken dumplings are fluffy and the flavours intense. We also share the fried calamari with mint and zucchini – the calamari is tender and the mint imparts an interesting flavour. Both starters are devoured quickly.

Our mains arrive soon after. The co-pilot’s mum orders the eggplant parmigiana with baked eggplant, tomato sugo, basil and parmesan which is both tasty and generous. It is superbly made and dissolves in the mouth. I chose the “Zampone” pigs trotter (my dad’s style) with cotechino, celery, marjoram and spinach. For whatever reason I’ve been craving pigs trotters stewed in malt vinegar (the way my mum makes them) for a few weeks now, and this version hits the spot. The cotechino (an Italian fatty pork sausage) gives even more flavour and richness to the already rich trotters. The result is a wonderfully collagenous dish but I might have been the only one on the table to have appreciated the fatty trotters.

The co-pilot’s dad orders the “Cartocchio” whole line caught snapper with fennel, onion compote and cooked in a paper bag. The fish flesh is tender and tasty but is slightly over salted. Briv, the co-pilot’s sister also gets a paper bag dish – ordering the spaghetti arrabbiata with crab cooked in a paper bag. Like the fish it certainly looked impressive and was very generously sized. Unfortunately the flavour was quite bland and the flavour of the crab drowned in sauce. On retrospect I understand why cooking fish in a paper bag might improve the fish flavour and texture, but I’m not sure how cooking spaghetti in a bag would work. The co-pilot orders the “La Tagliata”, chargrilled Hereford/Angus rib eye, rocket, green peppercorns, chilli and spring onions. He is slightly disappointed that although he orders it medium-rare it was actually closer to medium-well done and was too tough for his liking. We have two sides with the mains – the sauteed spinach and silverbeet is nothing special but the crispy Italian style potatoes with garlic and rosemary are very moreish.

We were very full after our mains but each found a little room for a shared dessert. Reminiscing about our Amalfi Coast trips, we order a shot of limoncello. The restaurant keeps the liquor so cold that it comes to us with the top surface layer snap frozen over. It is good but not nearly as good as the home-made limoncello we tasted in Italy. Our shared dessert of “Dolce Della Nonna” chocolate gelato, marsala zabaglione, chocolate sauce and roasted hazelnuts is very good – the bitterness of the chocolate ensures it is sweet without being cloying, and the roasted hazelnuts makes it extra special.

The mains were a bit hit and miss for our table – but we all agree the chicken soup, the calamari and the eggplant parmigiana were the standout dishes. Given we were happily celebrating a birthday, we were content enough and leave the restaurant smiling, our bellies full with a small dose of food coma settling in whilst we walk along the beach listening to the crash of the waves.

118 – 120 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi (02) 9300 4400
Open Mon-Tue 6pm-10:30pm; Wed-Sun 12pm-4pm then 6:30pm-10:30pm
Fully licensed and no bookings accepted.

Foodie in the know:
The restaurant allows no variations to the menu (printed very clearly on the menu so ask at your own risk), there is 10% surcharge on Sundays and public holidays. It can get very noisy and hot inside the restaurant (there are wall mounted fans that aren’t particularly effective) so if you can try to get one of the coveted balcony tables. I noticed a sign on their bar claiming they’d won best bar food in Sydney – so if you’re in the area but not too hungry, it’s worthwhile getting a drink, some bar snacks and enjoying the Bondi view.
Their website is nice too – simple but striking and does the job.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nila Rosa March 22, 2009 at 12:38 am

That view alone would be well worth the dinner for me. The food sounds amazing. :)

and yes, Limoncello is best homemade.Yum.

2 Forager March 23, 2009 at 7:18 am

Hey Nila Rosa – Thanks for visiting! Yup the view was pretty special, food was good – what more could you want? :)

3 Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella March 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I’ve always meant to go there but haven’t made it yet. Ah a bit disappointing that the mains were a bit hit and miss but points for spotting Marnie Skillings! You fashionista you! 😛

4 Forager March 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Hey Lorraine – Worthwhile getting there on a good weather day as the view will be worthwhile and make up for any minor misses with the food. As for being a fashionista – sadly I’m not. At least, I can’t afford to be the fashionista I’d like to be *sigh*

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